In Chinese, “Bon” means “root,” or “base” or “basic.”
That represents the philosophy behind Bon Japanese Cuisine, according to co-owner Henry Kim. It means being honest and sincere and not forgetting the base of what good food and good business are all about.
Henry Kim and his business partner, Jin Kim, who have no relation but Henry said are like brothers, started the Bee Cave restaurant in March 2018.
They were in the restaurant business together for 10 years in California before Henry moved to Cedar Park four years ago. He said it is much easier to own a business in Texas versus California. Jin still owns a restaurant in the San Fransisco area, and Henry said he comes to the Austin area periodically.
“It’s too expensive because of the property taxes and everything,” Henry said.
Though Henry left California, he retained the West Coast’s unique take on Japanese food and sushi.
One of the prime examples of the style is sampled through the Bon Tasting Plate, which features both ceviche and Tiradito-style sushi.
“Ceviche, traditionally, is a South American style that marinates fish with vegetables,” Henry said. “The reason they marinate it is because the weather is so hot. Our ceviche style is a little bit twisted with the Japanese style of the fish. It’s a little bit citrusy and spicy.”
Henry said another unique aspect of Bon Japanese is the fact that it has a wide variety of gluten-free options, including the tempura batter and soy sauce.
“We just make our flour formula [gluten-free] until we find the best crunchiness,” he said.
Another crucial aspect of maintaining a successful Japanese restaurant, according to Henry, is hiring the right Japanese chef.
The head chef at Bon Japanese, Akira Iwata, is a lifetime chef and has previously worked in New York and Florida.
Henry said Iwata moved to Texas for the same reasons he did—largely because they both feel it is easier to provide for their families and rise in their careers.
Working under Iwata is Bon Japanese’s assistant chef, Luciano Calel, who also makes many of the dishes.
Henry said he loves the restaurant business for many reasons, the biggest of which he gets to experience every day.
“When people come into the restaurant, they are not 100% happy. They’re hungry,” he said. “After I serve the food, I can see them change their faces after an hour or two hours. That’s the really fun part.”